Midweek movie news

Big movies are in the news today.

* James Cameron apparently won’t be directing the latest iteration of legend of Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Instead, he’ll spend the next few years doing the inevitable: “Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3.” Apparently, the commitment now is partially in return for Fox making a large donation to green causes Cameron supports.

* Christopher Nolan gave Geoff Boucher the title of the next Batman installment “The Dark Knight Rises” — not very inspiring. Having previously eliminated Mr. Freeze as the film’s big bad, he also eliminated the Riddler. That leaves Catwoman, the Penguin, and…Man-Bat?

man-bat-2

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Weekend box office: It’s paranormally delicious

I’ve got places to go and movies to see (and other stuff to write), so I’m going to keep it short and sweet today. And things were definitely sweet for Paramount this weekend.

http://screenrant.com/paranormal-activity-2-spoilers-vic-84039/

For starters, this week’s #1 is “Paranormal Activity 2.” It seems that prognosticators were avoiding specific numbers but this is a bit higher than expected with Anne Thompson describing the $41.5 million estimate figure as “jaw dropping.” Judging by good-to-meh reviews, the shot-on-video moc-reality-flick gave the audience what they wanted: more of the same, with maybe a bit of a new twist or two to keep things reasonably fresh. For some reason, Nikki Finke is reporting a slightly higher estimate of $43 million and also tripling the reporting budget from $1 to a whole $3 million. Is she the scoop lady or the wrongish lady this weekend? Box Office Mojo has the figure at $41.5 million also.

Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich hang out in This week’s #2 picture is last week’s #1 and it’s also from the former home of Bob Hope on Melrose in East Hollywood. (Line from obscure 1941 Cole Porter song, “Let’s Not Talk About Love”: “Let’s talk about drugs, let’s talk about dope; let’s try to picture Paramount minus Bob Hope.”) “Jackass 3D”  dropped a very-much par-for-the-youth-oriented-course 57.1% in its second week and reported a dandy $21.6 million for Paramount’s coffers. The elder-action comedy, “RED,” is in the #3 spot and looking leggy with a drop of 31.1% for $15 million in its second week.

Though it’s in the #4 spot, Clint Eastwood‘s “Hereafter,” written by Peter Morgan and starring Matt Damon, actually did better than expected according to La Finke. It earned an estimated $12 million and change and should hold reasonably well, given the strength of the names involved and some good reviews from prominent critics mixed with a lot of “meh” or worse from others.

  

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Box office preview: Can the ghostly demons of “Paranormal Activity 2” defeat the ghastly pranksters of “Jackass 3D”?

My Ouija board and jolly Carl DiOrio both agree that, yeah, Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity 2” has a very decent chance at unseating last weekend’s record setting debut of it’s “Jackass 3D.” While it may seem like an impossible-to-replicate one-off, apparently some care has been taken to avoid the kind of pitfalls that befell such unfortunate sequels as the non-mock-doc “Blair Witch 2.”

LA la-et-paranormal2.jpg

Even more shockingly, 17 of the 21 Rotten Tomatoes critics that have so far reviewed this seemingly destined to (creatively) fail sequel are saying quite the opposite, praising the film for a reportedly clever set-up that ups the ante and even somehow manages the return of Katie Featherston from the original “Paranormal Activity.” Given they’re competing with themselves on two unconventional, low budget projects, it seems like a sure bet Paramount will have a very good weekend and there will be smiling faces on Melrose Monday morning. That’s especially so considering the $1 million reported budget for the horror sequel — which is huge compared to the $15,000 originally spent on Oren Peli’s smash, but tiny in a world where $20 million films are considered to be low-budget. The profits will come very quickly for this one.

“Jackass 3D” should suffer a significant drop as it’s the kind of movie that tends to blow it’s b.o. wad (boy, that sounds gross) on the first weekend. Still, given it’s $50 million opening weekend, that means that “Paranormal Activity 2” will have to get something well over $20 million to top it, assuming the drop isn’t truly catastrophic. A photo-finish — or in this case a creepy security camera finish — is far from impossible.

Matt Damon seeks out the Also dealing with otherworldly matters is Clint Eastwood‘s “Hereafter” from, as always, Warner Brothers. With Matt Damon leading an ensemble cast in another multi-story drama, the film is expanding from a very limited run last weekend to a wide 2000+ theater release. In a bit of critical topsy-turvy, the movie is not getting anyway near the critical goodwill of this week’s quickie horror sequel. It’s dividing reviewers, with “top critics” from major publications being significantly more friendly to the film. A good example would be Roger Ebert, whose written quite skeptically on his blog about an afterlife, a topic that’s he’s obviously been forced to deal with in the most personal way by real-life events. His conclusion about Eastwood’s movie, written by Peter Morgan of “The Queen” and the hugely underrated, “The Damned United,” are almost opposite to our own Jason Zingale and he’s given the film an outright rave review.

Things movie-wise are otherwise slow, with most of the activity this week in limited releases being in expanding films that have already been out for awhile. Among the movies adding scores of theaters nationwide are the very hot documentaries and meh-ish reviewed drama with a whiff of made-for-basic-cable to it, “Conviction.”

Sam Rockwel and Hillary Swank have

  

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It’s weekend box office preview time: It’s “Jackass 3D” vs. Helen Mirren with a gun.

Guess which movie I’m rooting for? As usual, however, I won’t get what I want. It’s hard to imagine that the audience for “Jackass 3D” will accept seeing the gross-out-a-thon in any other format and for that reason alone the docu-comedy is expected to outgross the very strong competition from the comic book adaptation, “RED” (as in “Retired, Extremely Dangerous”) which stars Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary Louise-Parker, Karl Urban, and Fred Grandy as Gopher, I think.

Helen Mirren and John Malkovich are

Both the L.A. TimesBen Fritz and THR’s ever-jolly (despite his lousy new theme music) Carl DiOrio agree that the cleverly pitched comedy thriller, putting mostly older actors in the traditionally young-skewing over-the-top action genre, should net about $25 million. The even more cleverly framed “Jackass 3D” should, however, ride those expensive tickets, the spectacle of three dimensional bodily by-products, and the tendency of young males to see movies opening weekend, to about $30 million or more. “RED” should have the longer legs, but presumably “Jackass” has the smaller budget (medical insurance bills for the cast notwithstanding). Both will do fine.

It’s a very busy weekend in limited release. Artistically speaking, the most important films of the bunch will likely turn out to be Olivier Assayas’s mega massive and hugely praised true-life political thriller, “Carlos,” about the notorious far-left terrorist of the 1970s which you can watch all 330 minutes of this weekend in a few showings at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, and I’m tempted to. A shorter 2.5 hour cut is also available for people with less stout buttocks and/or lives to lead. On the other hand, one can never sneeze at a new movie by Clint Eastwood, and “Hereafter,” his second movie to star Matt Damon, begins to appear. This time, the octogenarian Mr. Eastwood takes on the topic of death itself.

Meanwhile, 542 theaters are going to be empty save for a few hardcore tea parties, I predict, this weekend as “I Want Your Money” opens. I’m actually sitting on an interview with director and would-be conservative answer to Michael Moore, Ray Griggs, from Comicon which will likely never see the light of day because it’s mostly quite dull and he had really nothing to say of interest to say about the movie we were actually supposed to talk about. It only got interesting when he mentioned this movie, which he dishonestly tried to pitch to me as nonpartisan. I smelled a cinema rat and, as I now know, the cast is dominated by famed Republican pols like Mike Huckabee and Newt Gringrich. However, a PR person ended the interview before I could try and figure out what the story really was.

Most conservatives would never believe me, but I don’t assume “I Want Your Money” is extremely bad because I disagree with its politics, I assume it’s extremely bad because Griggs last (apolitical) movie got a rare 0% from Rotten Tomatoes, including being slammed by the New York Post’s conservative Kyle Smith. He also couldn’t discuss “I Want Your Money” — or the other movie — with me in a straightforward fashion which doesn’t speak well for him or either movie.  To quote the old rock and roll song, sometimes bad is bad.

  

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Old dogs, new tricks, and Matt!

Matt Damon in

You’re pre-weekend box-offfice preview will be up bright and early tomorrow morning, but first I have a couple of what Rachel Maddow calls “Holy Mackeral stories.” Both of them involve old movie reliables trying new stuff, and somehow Matt Damon is involved in both movies.

* Back in 1955, Clint Eastwood had uncredited bit parts in two sci-fi monster/horror flicks from director Jack Arnold, “Revenge of the Creature” (the sequel to the 3-D hit, “Creature from the Black Lagoon”) and “Tarantula.” Since then, he’s somehow managed to steer clear of anything remotely fantastical either as an actor or a director — until now. “Hereafter” is being kept under wraps but the story is said to be in the same general ballpark as “The Sixth Sense.” It’s being written by Peter Morgan, also a first-timer in tales of the supernatural, though the playwright/screenwriter of “Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen” is also branching out genre wise with the 23rd James Bond movie. As suggested above, the star will be Matt Damon, who has been around the supernatural before. However, I suspect this film won’t have a whole lot in common either with Terry Gilliam’s ill-fated “The Brothers Grimm” or Kevin Smith’s “Dogma.”

All of this is not to say that director Eastwood can’t do scary. His 1971 directorial debut, the witty and suspenseful “Play Misty for Me,” was pretty thoroughly grounded in our reality but had some definite terror elements.

* Now, Michael Douglas found himself in a pretty similar predicament to Eastwood’s “Misty,” character in the 1987 hit, “Fatal Attraction,” but there’s pretty much no similarities in anything he’s done before with his next project. I don’t know how I’ve missed it, but the actor commonly associated with such super-macho characters as Gordan Gekko (soon to be reprised in the upcoming “Wall Street” sequel) and ultra-horny cop Nick Curran of “Basic Instinct” will be playing Liberace, the glitzy pop-classical concert pianist for whom the word “flamboyant” might have been coined. Directing the film will be Steven Soderbergh, returning to his nonfiction well that earned him one of his biggest commercial successes with “Erin Brokovich” and, he hopes again, with this week’s wide release of the fact-based comedy, “The Informant.”

Just to tie things up in a nice ribbon, as reported by People — who somehow found a picture of Michael Douglas looking oddly like Liberace might have looked later in life — “Informant” star Matt Damon will play Liberace’s longtime partner who ultimately sued the Las Vegas star in a palimony suit. I’m not sure it’s fair to say he “outed” Liberace. This will not, of course, be the first time that Matt Damon has played a gay character. That would be “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

And, now, a moment of vintage Liberace. Definitely not with Matt Damon.

  

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